: views from the Hill

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A to-do list for the City

Above the fold this morning in the Chron was an article detailing the City's plan to take over liability insurance and maintenance responsibility for the pair of cypress trees downhill from here that I've written about before , the trees that Mark Bittner flung himself in front of chainsaws to save, the trees that are, according to Bevan Dufty, who proposed the legislation, one of the parrots' favorite roosts.

The operative words there are "one of the..."

The parrots have many favorite roosts. This clump of trees is not even the most favorite roost within a one hundred yard radius. Preserving these trees because the tourists like watching the parrots is a flawed argument. Mark lives right next to the trees in question, which is why he wants them preserved above all others. I understand his personal stake in all this.

... but the number of tourists who climb up and down the Greenwich Steps and are enchanted by the birds (and ipso facto and all that the trees MUST be preserved!) are far outnumbered by the number of tourists who climb up and down the Filbert Steps and are enchanted by the birds. The parrots are hanging out more often than not in the trees and on the wires above the Filbert Steps when they are hanging out on this side of the hill.

And, boy, am I tired of explaining to people I talk to at parties and gatherings that the parrots are fine, they're happy, they're healthy, they're squawking all the time, when they're here. There are scores of parrots in the flock and it is still growing. Concerned people say, "But I thought their tree was cut down." or "I thought they had flown away."

No, it wasn't. No, they haven't. They don't even sleep here, I tell them. The parrots show up in the morning and squawk around and come and go and usually head back to the north end of town, to the Presidio or Fort Mason or wherever it is they lay their weary heads, when the sun starts heading toward its evening meetup with the ocean. Get here after 5P or 4P or some days even 3P and there won't be a parrot to be seen. "Come back tomorrow," I tell the disappointed tourists. "They've gone home to tuck in but they'll be back tomorrow."

And, whoo boy, the Steps especially near Napier Lane, outside Aaron Peskin's place (the wires near his house are a new favorite place for them) are sprinkled with guano these days. We noticed a note from Judy Irving (TPOTH filmmaker and Mark's wife) tacked onto Aaron's fence the other day asking people not to feed the parrots.

The Northeast San Francisco Conservancy has collected $5K to give to the City to pay an arborist to trim the trees so at least that expense won't be the City's, but the other associated staffer expenses?

The City, which has a wide variety of ills that need attention, is spending time, staffing $$ (and perhaps real $$ if the trees topple) on a pair of trees that imosho don't deserve the extraordinary attention they've been getting.

A guy from AP asked us last Sunday at Gavin's campaign HQ opening, what we thought was the most serious problem in the City that needed addressing.

Oh, so many to choose from ...

The City should be paying attention to:

(1) Muni/taxis/public transport/traffic meters/bike lanes/traffic and oh, the list could go on. Let's talk about bus fares. Let's talk about waiting for a 30 for much longer than expected and having two show up simultaneously. Let's talk about reworking Muni and dropping the fares for everyone. (What's with the proposed deal to give 18-24 year olds deals on their Muni passes when there are plenty of thirty- and forty-something dishwashers and grocery clerks who deserve a fare shake too.)

And maybe, just maybe, if we improve the Muni safety record we will have extra money in the budget. Last year Muni paid out $6.6 million in claims. Woo hoo! A million less than the year before! SIX MILLION SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS. Yikes.

(2) trash/litter and the scum bums who toss crap in the streets or toss coffee cups in the gutters or leave papers on benches for the winds to blow afar. Add in the City's trash picker uppers who need to pickup the trash bins (especially the ones at the bottom of the Vallejo Steps at Montgomery) far more often than they do, the lack of trash bins on busy corners and at bus stops which gives people the excuse that they would have thrown their trash in a trash bin but there was not one to be found, and oh, the list could go on.

And then there's the neighbor at the top of the Filbert Steps at Montgomery who doesn't like the people down the Steps bringing their recycle up to the top of the Steps for recycle pickup. Every once in a while, when the recycle offends him for whatever reason, maybe the neighbor's noise disturbed his tube watching, he kicks the recycle down the steps and makes a giant mess of things just because of because. Grow up, neighbor.

Let's all take the "one for the road" pledge.

(3) crime, violent crime, hurting people, busting windows, busting jaws, killing people, robbing people, theft, property damage. People, some of them quite young, running amok.

(4) free WiFi -- just get on with it. Let Earthlink and Google provide the service and use us as their guinea pigs and don't even think of having the City set up its own bureaucracy to handle the problem. Oh, the bureaucrats handle Muni so well, why not give them this new box to play in?

(5) the building inspections department and the planning process ... both busted by some accounts with the added fillip that no one can agree on the right thing to be done so nothing gets done

... until someone like kink.com buys a building and promises that all they'll do is get rid of the graffiti, add outdoor lighting and ... make movies inside away from the public view. The site's zoned for commercial use. The building won't change. Nothing that needs planning or historic preservation.

BUT WE DON'T WANT THAT! Well, over the years you didn't want anything else either. No one could agree. It's been over thirty years since the Guard left the building. 'sides which kink.com's been making movies in a warehouse not that far away for years now and nobody even noticed. Peter Acworth had a column on the op-ed page Monday about the purchase and his plans.

A new head's been hired for the Building Inspection department and maybe he'll work wonders. Planning's problems don't have an easy fix. Can't we all just get along?

Don't get me started on the ongoing snags affecting Angelo Sangiacomo's efforts to rehab Trinity Plaza. He's getting tired of the wrangling. What if he just says tahellwithit like the previous owner of the Armory did? I doubt we'll ever find a buyer like kink.com that wants Trinity Plaza and will keep it just like it is, which seems to be the intent of the folks who are asking Sangiacomo to promise this, and when he does, asking him to promise that, and when he does, saying they've changed their minds and want him to ...

(6) the Port and the piers and the wrangling there over what will be done. Leave things as some people seem to want and the piers will all look like Pier 36 in a few years.

(7) people who need health care. people who need housing. people who need jobs. people who need a shrink or drugs or food or a hug.

"Choose one?" we asked the reporter. "Muni, parking, taxis, anything to do with getting people around this town without adding cars on the streets but that's just the beginning of what needs addressing."

The pair of cypresses downhill from us didn't even cross our minds. There are other trees that the parrots flock to. The parrots are thriving. I'm not a tree hugger, obviously. I don't believe every tree deserves saving just because it's a tree. I do believe in planting more trees in the city. We're Friends of the Urban Forest. My problem with Dufty's well-intentioned, if misguided, efforts is that I don't cotton to the idea that rules should be changed and these trees deserve special efforts because of the parrots. They don't. The parrots are fine. The City has more important troubles to address.

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